Unraveling Data Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity
Considered as the new oil in this age of digital disruption, data has become a vital resource in most organizations. It can be used in a variety of ways but the goal is always the same—to improve operations. Retailers, for example, analyze data to observe and respond to customer behavior, while professionals in the medical field have been using big data analysis to achieve more accurate diagnostics and to help build accurate patient profiles and predictive models in order to effectively anticipate, diagnose, and treat diseases. With data being such an important asset, it is imperative that companies protect it at all times from disasters and downtime, or else suffer from repercussions that can lead to a company to close such as money loss, lawsuits, loss of customer support and reputation, and more.
The rapid expansion of digital technology has made people more aware about the various data protection methods, but whether these are fully understood is a different discussion altogether. Currently, there are three prevalent strategies that are being used synonymously but are wholly different: Data Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity. While having the same objective—which is protecting data—having a good grasp of their differences can make or break a company when disasters and downtime strike.
Data backup is the creation of copies of data and saving them to another device or several devices. This is arguably the most common way of protecting data against disasters; there are many ways of doing it, but in general, creating backups needs to be done in regular intervals. Employees can use tape drives, offsite backup, USB flash drives, or even simply replicate the data into a different folder or computer to perform data backup. This alleviates problems brought about by mistakenly deleting files and relieves the adverse effects of when a storage system gets corrupted, which happens more often than not.
Despite being relatively simple to deploy, data backup has limitations: It can only backup files, not applications and servers. When a server crashes, the time to recover may take too long, which can lead to potential losses in revenue. Business owners must consider the fact that the process to replace a server includes reinstalling all applications and software. In addition, the whole system would need to be configured again with all settings and preferences. This process could take hours or even days—and that’s if a business were diligent enough to keep copies of data and software licenses.
Ensuring regular data backups is only the tip of the iceberg. With more and more companies relying heavily on their computer systems, the whole process of protecting data calls for a Disaster Recovery (DR) strategy. The idea of DR is to ensure the ability to restore critical IT services as quickly as possible after a disaster, and this encompasses much more than just having backups of your data. A comprehensive DR plan might include setting up alternate sites, spare hardware, and more.
While technically still revolving around I.T., DR is a comprehensive process that involves other departments of a company such as management and HR, since it involves policies and procedures related to preparing for recovery or continuation of business-critical technology infrastructure, systems and applications in the event of a disaster or outage.
Disasters can be as manageable as a critical server failing, to as huge as natural disasters like fire, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, or manmade disasters such as construction accidents, theft, sabotage, chemical spills, that may render an entire site inaccessible. Having a Disaster Recovery Plan in place ensures that your data can be easily restored and accessed despite ongoing disasters.
While Data Backup and Disaster Recovery mostly entails taking action after a disaster occurs in order to continue work, Business Continuity is all about maintaining operations during one. Because this clearly encompasses the processes related to creating backups and recovering from disasters, it can be said that Data Backup and Disaster Recovery are under the bigger umbrella of Business Continuity, depending on a company’s discretion. Successful continuity plans typically involve making sure that network connections, online systems, drives, servers, and business applications are capable enough to run with minimal to no downtime during disasters.
Continuity during disasters can be achieved by implementing disaster mitigation tools such as DDoS Mitigation, which blocks all incoming malicious traffic to a server. Because blocking traffic is an action that doesn’t really alter anything on a server as it happens unsuspectingly on the back-end, a company maintains operations in the face of a DDoS attack. The enhanced flexibility of the Cloud assures Business Continuity as well. By replicating a company’s hardware infrastructure on servers running on the cloud, personnel can quickly shift operations from one to the other in case of disasters.
In a nutshell, here are the key differences among the three:
- Business continuity planning refers to a strategy that lets a company operate with minimal or no downtime
- Disaster recovery is one element of a larger business continuity plan. It’s typically a solution for keeping an organization’s data and critical systems safe so they can be restored after a disaster.
- Data backups are merely the creation of copies of files. It may be a part of a Disaster Recovery or Business Continuity solution but shouldn’t be considered as a standalone data protection solution as it cannot retrieve applications and servers.
To survive in a world where disasters are bound to happen anytime, an organization needs to implement all three at some level. At a minimum, companies need to make sure they have in place the right backup and disaster recovery plan against downtime, and a plan for how the business could continue to operate if servers and data are rendered inaccessible.